Millennia before the emergence of Hellenic civilisation and the power of Rome, the land of Egypt had long been flourishing under the rule of the Pharaohs. With Voyages to Antiquity you will discover the staggering wealth, cultural beliefs and technological expertise of the ancient Egyptians, preserved in their awe-inspiring monuments and intricate artworks. Few places on earth are more intrinsically linked to the ancient world than Egypt. Visit the Pyramids of Giza, location of the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World, view the splendours of Tutankhamun’s tomb and discover the legacy of Egypt’s Greek and Roman conquerors. For those with a passion for antiquity, visiting Egypt is a truly unmissable experience.
Imagine the feelings of the British archaeologist Howard Carter when, on November 5, 1922, he descended the steps to discover the tomb of Tutankhamun and its golden treasures.
This priceless collection includes a royal diadem, weapons used by the young king, a viscera coffin for his mummified liver and a gold mask weighing over 24 pounds of solid gold shaped in the image of the pharaoh's face. They date from 1347BC during Egypt's Golden Age and are some of the stunning artefacts of pharaonic art you will see during a visit to the National Archaeological Museum.
Situated in the world famous Tahrir (Liberty) Square in the heart of downtown Cairo, the museum is the repository of the world's largest and richest collection of Egyptian antiquities, spanning a period of over 50 centuries.
There will be plenty of time to enjoy the golden burial masks, papyrus scrolls and artefacts representing every period of Egyptian history on display.
Stand in awe before the Pyramids at Giza, the only survivor of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Drive to the Giza Plateau and the pyramids built for the pharaohs of the fourth dynasty: Cheops, Chefren and Mycerinos. From the Western Plateau, take in majestic views of all three pyramids with Cairo sprawling at their feet. The pyramid of Cheops alone required tens of thousands of workers over two decades. While it was once held that the workers who created this site were slaves, it is now thought they toiled for wages or to pay off taxes. Continue down the valley to contemplate the Sphinx, watching the passage of time and man in silence.
This colossal limestone monument with the haunches of a lion and the face of a king is held to represent the guardian deity of these royal burial grounds. So great were the Sphinx's mythical powers that 15th-century Egyptians thought it controlled the flood cycles of the Nile.
Note: This visit is to the exterior of the pyramids only. If you wish to go inside, there is an additional charge, but this is not recommended for those with claustrophobia or with breathing, knee or back problems. Photography is not allowed inside the pyramids.
From your hotel, drive to the banks of the River Nile where a luxurious cruise boat awaits to sail you on the same timeless waterway traversed by Pharaohs, Queens and Nobles thousands of years ago. Sit back, relax and enjoy a sumptuous dinner in elaborate interiors as you glide past Cairo’s waterfront landmarks. For your entertainment, a folkloric presentation and belly dancing will take place during meal.
At its peak, Memphis must have staggered the out-of-town visitor. Egypt's first capital is situated at the apex of the Nile delta. For thousands of years this huge, cosmopolitan city was the capital of the Old Kingdom (2650-2134BC).
Arriving at Memphis, visit the remains of the temple of Ptah, the god of Memphis and mythical creator of the universe. See such breathtaking sights as the huge fallen statue of King Ramses II and the Alabastar Sphinx of King Amenhopis II. Continue a short drive from Memphis to Sakkara, a favorite necropolis of Old Kingdom pharaohs. View one of mankind's first monumental stone buildings, the Step Pyramid of King Zoser, built in 2750BC by the engineer Imhotep, a polymath who could arguably lay claim to being the world's first architect, first doctor, first priest, first poet, first dentist and first astrologer.
After visiting the complex, continue to one of the nearby mastabas (funerary chambers) such as Ptah-Hotep or Mereruca. These give important insights into the architectural origins of the pyramid and contain beautiful reliefs with depictions of daily life in ancient Egypt.
Anthony the Great, the Father of All Monks, was born in 251AD to a wealthy family in Lower Egypt, but after answering the call of God he gave away all his worldly possessions and lived an ascetic life in the wilderness. Following his death in 356AD, his followers founded a Coptic monastery in his name at the foot of Al-Qalzam Mountain, not far from the tiny cave where Anthony had lived.
Your guides for the day will be the monks themselves, making for a truly fascinating insight into the daily life of what is the oldest still active monastery in the world. Dotted around this self-contained little village are a mill and bakery, as well as four churches, the oldest of which has some exceptional wall paintings of the Holy Knights. Also on the site is a library containing the largest collection of Coptic manuscripts in Egypt, totalling nearly two thousand volumes.
St. Paul’s Monastery is another Coptic Christian retreat that relies on mountain spring water for its supply and still observes rituals that have barely changed for sixteen centuries. Founded in memory of Paul the Anchorite, one of Egypt’s greatest saints, it has a close association with St. Anthony’s as one of the other oldest monasteries in the country, dating from the 5th-century AD.
The site has three churches, one of which is underground in the cave where St. Paul is said to have lived for eighty years. During the Middle Ages it suffered repeated attacks by Bedouin tribes, which is why, until recently, the only way in was via a pulley and winch system.
This morning you head to Karnak to visit the great Temple of Amun, the greatest place of worship in history.
The magnificent hypostyle hall is a veritable forest of 134 papyrus columns that once supported a massive roof. You can still see the remains of clerestory windows, designed to create the effect of a papyrus swamp. This hall connected the outer court with the inner sanctuary, where only kings and priests were permitted. On special occasions, a statue of Amun would emerge carried aloft on the shoulders of his priests.
The temple was completed by Ramses II (1290-1224BC), considered by some to be the pharaoh of the Exodus, and the site bears evidence of an even earlier temple, dating back another thousand years. Other highlights include the Avenue of the Sphinxes, creatures combining the body of a lion and the head of a ram. Once the main road linking the temples at Karnak and Luxor was lined with these fantastic creatures, each holding a statue of Ramses II between their paws.
In addition, visit the open-air museum to view remains from other areas of Karnak, such as the white chapel of Sanusret I.
Thebes, the city of the god Amon, was the capital of Egypt during the Middle and New Kingdoms.
Like Babylon and Ninevah it was considered one of the great cities of antiquity. On the opposite bank of the Nile is located the necropolis known as the Valley of the Kings, the burial place of the New Kingdom pharaohs. These rulers were obsessed with the afterlife, and the magnificence of their tombs and temples has been a source of marvel to tourists since the time of the Greek historian, Herodotus.
Visit three of the royal tombs, including King Tutankhamun's, where one of archaeology's most dramatic discovery tales comes to life. Continue to Deir El Bahari to view the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the masterwork of Senenmut, the commoner turned royal architect.
Dramatically located at the foot of a cliff, the funerary temple befits a queen who once declared herself king, and is considered one of the finest buildings in all Egypt.